Bonobo apes look for injured ape

By Motoko Kakubayashi 19/03/2012

For the past year in Japan, there’s been a big emphasis on unity following the Japan Earthquake.  Helping a friend in need.  I came across an interesting story in the Yomiuri Shimbun suggesting humans aren’t the only ones with this ability or emotion.

Japanese scientists from Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute studying Bonobo apes in Congo saw something totally new in their behaviour.  A search party of 15 bonobos traveling a long distance to find a bonobo who had been injured from a trap a day before.

The bonobo got his fingers trapped in a trap set up by locals to capture wild boars.  He managed to break away from the trap but the snare was still clasped around his fingers.  Seven of his fellow bonobos surrounded him, tried to help him remove it, and licked his injured fingers.  At the end of the day, however, they abandoned the injured bonobo to go back to their sleeping ground about two kilometres away.

The next day the group returned to the same spot, but this time there were 15 bonobos in the group.  But when they found the injured bonobo had moved somewhere else, they gave up and headed back to find food.

Because there was no food around where the bonobo was injured, it seems as though the 15 apes had come back with the intention of finding their friend.  There have been observations in the past of injured chimpanzees being treated by other group members, but never one about apes sending out large search parties.

The scientists think it’s because bonobo males are less aggressive and a party tries to keep together as much as possible.

0 Responses to “Bonobo apes look for injured ape”

  • Yay good to see you blogging again Motoko!

    This reminds me of a couple of stories Dian Fossey wrote about in Gorillas in the Mist. I read it while I was in Rwanda but didn’t actually go see any gorillas myself. They form very tight groups that take very good care for each other in most cases apparently.